"Jay, you almost died, you write the trip report." Alright.
We discovered in Thursday’s meeting that Cave Mountain Cave would be shutting down in April to allow its endangered flying rats some peace and quiet, and wouldn’t reopen until next winter. As thus, everyone wanted to go for the final time in a long time (or ever, for our seniors not named Bob, who is on the six year plan in the footsteps of Van Wilder). Bob and Adam decided to drive in the meeting, so it was decided that 9 spots were open. Then it was decided that at the very maximum, 11 people could go if we crammed. So, 12 people signed up. By Sunday morning, 14 people were there. Fantastic. Luckily, Christine, one of our two virgins that day, was willing to ruin her nice Civic by driving some of us as well, so we were set for takeoff. I showed up as the bell tower was ringing “eleven,” and found that I was the third person to arrive. By 11:30, almost everyone was here, and 10 minutes later, Bob, Kenzie, and John rolled in with smiles on their faces. This would be the last time they would smile that morning, as we wouldn’t let them forget that they were 40 minutes late. Here’s my shot at remembering all 14 people. Me, Geoff, Katie, and Steve the caving virgin were packed comfortably into Adam’s mid-sized SUV (whose 4-wheel drive and shock absorbers would come into play later). Lee and Kelton were in Christine’s car, and Kenzie and John were in Bob’s car. Let’s see… carry the two… damn it, that’s only 11! Oh yeah, Terri was there too somewhere. Sorry two other people. I did only get a good 6 or 7 hours of face time with you. The ride was smooth, as we watched Bob drive like a maniac in front of us and listened to good music for once, thanks to Adam’s iPod. Every new song that came on was greeted with a laugh. Toxic by Britney Spears? Haha, oh Adam. Eifel 65? Haha. Well, you get the idea. At one point some crazy Spanish rap came on and was eventually changed. Geoff commented, “I feel like I’m in a Mexican drive-by.” 30 seconds later it registered with us and we were like, “Wait, what??” As we pulled into the driveway, we were greeted by some of the bumpiest terrain that I have ever experienced that still called itself a “road.” At this point, we all congratulated ourselves for picking Adam’s car. Oh yeah, Nikki was on the trip too! Alright, 13 names so far! One more to go.
Anyways, we all parked in the mud, and Bob pointed out a far-off mountain face in the distance and told his bemused followers that that was where we’d be hiking to. “Straight up that cliff face.” So we hike for about 20 minutes, ruining the pristine snow in the process, when I turn to Geoff. “Hey, where’s your helmet?” “Meh, I dunno. …Wait” (blank stare) “Oh fuck, I should probably get on that.” “You didn’t…?” “Geoff!!” “Everyone point and laugh at Geoff!” “You idiot!” “Go back, you can find us from the tracks in the snow.” “You don’t get to come anymore, just sit in the car until we get back.” So, that was the excitement on the trail (or lack thereof). Anthills that Geoff had destroyed Adam pointed out to me. Whitney wasn’t present on this trip, so the stick bugs were safe… this time. Eventually we made it to a slight incline/sheer cliff face, which gave us some grief since we couldn’t see the ground through the snow. I don’t know about anyone else, but I had a fun slip that almost killed me. Wouldn’t be the last time I almost died that day. We made it to the gated entrance, where we discovered that Lee’s hat blended in perfectly with the surrounding rocks. Inside, you could see a good hundred feet down the cave, as it was just a straight line. It was pretty freakin’ sweet. Though, most of the cave wasn’t much to look at. It was extremely wide open and massive, with broken rocks and dust everywhere. And Microsoft Word says that the grammatically correct term there is “dusts,” but I’m just not buying it. Cave Mountain Cave is apparently very straight forward. I found myself in the lead for a good portion of it, probably because I like to charge through caves as if it was a small group, and not a group of 14. We came to a part where you could make your way down a 40 or so foot descent, or continue on the main path. Both seemed equally huge and tedious. As Lee had found one route down and Kelton the other, we decided to take the descent part. As if calling it “the descent” wasn’t ominous enough, only Lee, Katie and me managed to get down to the bottom that continued. The others were befuddled as to how we managed to get down, and by the time everyone was in the big room that the three of us were in, Bob had to give a long talk about staying together and not separating and blah blah blah and not knowing how to get down. Gee thanks, dad. So now that everything was considerably more awkward, we made our way through the darkness. Terri, Nikki and I found ourselves out front on the high road and Lee, Kelton and Bob were out front on the low road, and there was apparently a way for us to meet up eventually. The three of us came to a part with some crazy exposure and 30 foot drops and such, and just a wall with some sketchy foot and hand holds to hang on to. The whole thing screamed unsafe. So, of course, I decided to give it a go (while leaving the cave pack behind). I made my way across, and tried to instruct Terri as to how to get across herself, while Lee (who had climbed up through the exposure) had found a 3rd way above us, that was deemed safer. Terri didn’t trust the wall and its footholds, as they looked flimsy. “Ugh come on Terri, its easy, you just need to grab on to these things sticking out on the side” I said, testing one on my side as it broke off, hit me on the knee and fell into the abyss. Strike two for almost dying that day. So this is how it went for most of the cave. Me hurting myself in various ways, defying death, hating Cave Mountain, etc.
This next part, though, deserves its own paragraph. The going was getting tighter and tighter, and me and Bob slinked down to some area ahead of the group. We came to a point where were was only one apparent option (I would later discover there was another, less painful way) for continuing in our exploration, a tight little anus of an opening that I was expected to go through. It was set up so that you had to move in a 90 degree angle, first forward then straight down, all while being somewhat wide and ridiculously low. I went head first, sticking my head down and banging my helmet on the sides. At this point, I’m pissed off and feel like I need to take my helmet off if I want to go any further without getting stuck. So, I do. Ahhh, much better. Oh, what’s that, a 6 foot drop? Damn, I’d better turn around. But it’s so tight! Let’s see, all I need to do is move my right leg to the side… Get my knee around that part… move my back and head to the left… swing my leg over the side… and… voila! I can lower my right leg down! But now I’m in a position where I’m facing this rock wall with my right leg dangling and my left knee at level with my head, my left shin and foot sticking out perpendicularly from there, and my helmet perched on top of a rock for light. Oh, hi Terri! “Do you need any help?” At this point, I can’t move. My right leg is moving slowly lower… and lower… but my left leg is staying where it is. I’m doing a split, which I’ve never done before. All I can do is to yell in frustration and angst. I don’t care if everyone thinks I’m being eaten by a bear, this is the time to yell! GYAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!! Eventually, I move my left foot to the right, and am able to move it down and free myself, into this little room. Hmmph! That was probably the worst physical experience of my life. That’s what she said! I see that now, I can continue on further. But… give me 5 minutes. I then see Nikki’s head pop up… from below me. Luckily, it’s very tight down there too, so it would be difficult for her to join me. I say “luckily” because I’d have been thoroughly embarrassed had there been a really easy way to get to me. I hear Adam asking if I was alright. “Yeah, I’m fine, there’s more passage so I can continue.” “No, after all the trouble you went through with that, we’re not gonna try it. We’re going to head back. Come back up through there.” “God damn it!” Yes, I had to go back up. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the way down, but that hole was just something I’d have rather avoided. Nikki and Adam ended up going through the other way and exploring a bit, but Nikki was perplexed as to how I got through the original way (so was I), and tagged me with the apt nickname, “Gumby.” Bob decided he would attempt to go through my way, but things didn’t work out too well any way he tried it. Bob tried going through Adam’s way next, and made me crawl through my way to shine light on him, which I did not appreciate. Bob couldn’t get through any way, so we all decided to pack it in and go home. Strike three for almost dying.
The way back was easy enough, though I was completely wiped out and just kind of trudged through. The hike back, which gave me so much grief before, seemed trivial after all that caving. I had perfected my center of balance, and no 40 minute hike was going to stand between me and Adam’s warm car. The ride back was delayed by everyone stopping to take photos of the sunset. The term “everyone” excludes Geoff, Steve and I, as we were too cold and tired to move from Adam’s car. I napped a good nap the rest of the way, and after we got back, Lee, Kelton, Adam, Terri and I had a glorious feast at the Wood Grill.
There’s your damned trip report.